More Europe

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Building a Smarter German-American Partnership

Angela Merkel wants more Europe.  Despite the widespread skepticism among Germans about many of their European partners and their ability to measure up to German standards of fiscal responsibility, the Chancellor wants more Europe. She also wants to assign more authority to Europe, i.e. to the EU or the structures which make up the complicated decision-making process of twenty seven nations.

But Europe is not a product to buy or acquire. It is a process, an evolution, a road to somewhere yet to be defined. More Europe to Germans means something else to Italians, Britons or certainly now the Greeks. Europe, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. To some it is a common currency or a shared market, while to others it is a shared defense. And to still others it is a shared threat.

How many see Europe as a shared opportunity is unknown. It certainly was seen that way in its early decades. Yet now it is seen increasingly as a burden or as a nuisance. Twenty years ago, unification in Germany was seen as an opportunity to fulfill a long-held dream. Today, unification is taken for granted. Germans think or argue about other things that they have in common, including European burdens. Along with their counter parts, younger Germans wander freely across Europe. But they are not caught up in a mission to create more Europe as their parents were. Europe has a cost-benefit look to it. There is little emotion. Watching the Queen’s birthday celebration with thousand of Britons singing Land of Hope and Glory to her last week − that is emotion.

If more Europe is needed, it needs to be more than on a continuum of institutional structures. Europe needs more Europeans. In the United States, it was only after the Civil war in 1865 when references to the country really filled the words “we the people” with a sense that the U.S. was not a loose federation of states. It was one country, even if we still had work to do to include everyone in the “we”.

More Europe means more work at forging more “we” and meaning it.